Mad in South Asia (MISA) is an online publication, an ally and affiliate of the international publication Mad in America. It is a platform that focuses on the region of South Asia which consists of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Bhutan, and Nepal. It has the following core mission:
- To showcase the experience of the users of mental health services in South Asia, in all of its complexity and diversity. We believe that people suffering with mental distress understand their own experience better than anyone else. They have the capacity and intelligence to know what helps them and what harms them. To pretend otherwise, as is done during involuntary treatment procedures, is a gross human rights violation. This aligns with the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. In line with this, we publish the experience of patients/clients, otherwise known as service-users and sometimes known as survivors (a global movement of people harmed by mental health care systems). Our aim is to keep their voices first, as we firmly believe that they are the experts of their experience.
- We know that people in South Asian societies and cultures have vastly different experiences than those in the Global North or the Western Nations. This is due to the presence of radically different social-cultural, economic, geographical, historical, and familial systems. We know this because of extensive research done in clinical anthropology, sociology, history, and cultural psychology. Often fields such as mainstream Psychology and Psychiatry fail to understand these differences. Thus, they use diagnostic categories that are far too narrow and reductionistic, and do not fit the lives of South Asians. This can cause irreparable harm, even when the individual mental health practitioner is trying to help. Many of us from the core team of MISA are therapists, researchers, service users, and professors. We intimately know our field, are aware of its limitations, appreciative of its efforts, and cognizant of the rampant pharmaceutical industry corruption that plagues it. Thus, we maintain a critical outlook and believe that mainstream psychiatry and psychology will benefit if they remain open to patient experience and feedback.
- We support the idea that mental suffering and emotional pain are part of the normal human experience and should be understood and treated in a holistic way. This means that we do not prescribe to the idea that a person dealing with depressive thoughts, anxious feelings, or even hearing voices is simply disordered or has a disease (a broken brain). In other words, we challenge the biomedical model which pathologizes large chunks of normal human experience, such as long-term grief, as a disease.
- Apart from service users (people using mental health care systems) and survivors (people harmed by mental health care systems), we highlight the work of experts who have challenged the traditional biomedical model – this includes psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, anthropologists, sociologists, alternate medicine professionals, historians, and many others. We highlight their research and scientific studies, and showcase their opinions on our platform.
- Lastly, we try to provide informational resources to people who are looking for help amidst their psychological struggle. These include information about organizations, individual practitioners, websites, forums, support groups, books, documentaries, webinars, events etc.
South Asian experience is often absorbed by that of the South Asian diaspora in the West, who seem to speak for us without ever knowing us. We know that things that hurt and harm us are often different than what global Psychology considers harmful. We know that our reactions to many life events are different from what is portrayed as universally damaging. We know that what helps, treats, and heals us is often not found in psychology and psychiatry textbooks. This needs to be changed.
We demand a psychology that is created by us, for us. We demand a psychiatry that is corruption free from the teats of the pharmaceutical industry, that honestly discusses side-effects and withdrawal effects with patients so they can make an informed decision about their treatment and care.
At MISA, we challenge any understanding of South Asian people that is acontextual, arrogant, and deaf to the actual experience of people they are supposed to help. We have a deep appreciation for the context a person lives in (cultural, geographical, social, socio-economic, historical etc.). In doing this we challenge pop psychology, social media psychology, and therapy-speak that is prevalent in popular narrative.
We are taking our voices back.